Vengeful and heart-pounding, “Monkey Man” cinematizes intensely rhythmic combat sequences that immerse the viewer in a narrative where revenge is spoken through violent retribution rather than verbal communication. Dev Patel, who wrote the screenplay and directed the film, stars as the anonymous lead character. Concealing his identity as “Bobby,” he remains with no identity but the story centers around a horrifying past that drives his livelihood.

Bobby is a complicated hero with a sorrowful life marked by genocide and the murder of his mother. He gets by through underground fight matches in which he wears an ominous monkey mask — calling back to a story his mother read to him as a child. He impulsively seeks revenge when he comes across people connected not only to his mother, but also other corruptors of society like Rana, a police chief who murdered Bobby’s mother, and Baba Shakti, a religious leader who burned down Bobby’s village and claimed the land as religious soil.

Bobby finds a sense of peace when he is taken in by hijra, a transgender, intersex and eunuch community that makes him feel seen. He finds healing and kinship among them all the while transforming his body and mind to be stronger and find direction. This is where his heroism truly kicks in and we see him not only fight out of selfishness, but now express empathy for everyone victimized under capitalism, corruption and prejudice.

The movie weaves a multitude of storylines together, sometimes diverting the narrative path from the main character’s revenge. The action moves so swiftly that keeping up with the timing and detailing of the combat, as well as the unraveling of the plotline, is a challenge. For example, many of the side characters who interact with Bobby are not fully fleshed out and remain incomplete such as Neela, an escort he meets while under disguise and Alphonso, a henchman working for the capital symbol of Queenie Kapoor who runs an institution for elites on the backs of the underclass. These details are hard to conceptualize — at least during the first watch of the movie — which may jeopardize the interest of the viewer, and may appeal more to a critical thinker looking to gut its vast contents.

The movie is deep and raw, as it often calls out the sugar-coated realities of society. It seeks to bring the ugly truths of society to the forefront such as the lower classes’ quality of life compared to the elites. It compels viewers with a strong defense for the capital rule to find understanding in Bobby as a death-dealing Robin Hood. “Monkey Man” therefore tackles various societal issues such as capitalism, religion, gender, sexuality, law and corruption — reflecting the protagonist’s multifaceted journey toward redemption.

Throughout the film, Bobby’s development takes a meaningful turn, leading to more satisfying victories after facing climactic failures in the first half. His journey is marked by a thoughtful exploration of his rage and trauma, allowing him to find strength and structure where previously demotivation, blind rage and poverty had made him submissive. Bobby learns to direct his bloodlust and discovers a path to healing and acceptance of the trauma that haunts him. The movie overwhelms the senses with its rich and stimulating content. Its intense audio-visual experience, combined with its intricate plot, draws viewers closer to the protagonist’s inner turmoil, fostering intense cathartic connections.

Despite its open-ended nature and complex plotline, “Monkey Man’s” exploration of controversial heroism and its portrayal of societal truths makes it a compelling and thought-provoking film. It can appeal to viewers seeking both thrilling action and deep psychological exploration, as it keeps the viewer on their toes and works their mind.

Rating: 4.5/5